Sunday, April 22, 2007
BLOGS FOR BEGINNERS
Thanks for the invitation to explain for beginners, how I add pictures onto my blog sites but first let me give some background, tell you why I am blogging and what I am discovering about this medium.
*Blog #1: Rallying Point and Noticeboard*
Since moving to the United Arab Emirates I have been republishing some of the rare works of F W Boreham and writing a book on the subject of my doctoral thesis, the life and work of F W Boreham.
In the process I established my Blog #1, *The Official F W Boreham Site*. I did this to provide a rallying point for the Boreham devotees and to offer tasters to those who were beginning to sample some of his work, often encouraged by well known communicators such as Gordon Moyes, Rowland Croucher (Australia), Billy Graham and Ravi Zacharias (USA), who have regularly paid tribute to the books of F W Boreham. This blog has become a notice board, a way of gauging readership interest and a place to ask and receive help, which we have done, in the form of cash, proof readers and designers.
*Blog #2: Online Publishing*
F W Boreham was writing a book at the time of his death. Perhaps it killed him, so I was tentative in finishing his book, which is now complete. It takes the style of one essay a day for 366 days (including leap year). I was unable to persuade a publisher to accept the challenge of publishing the work of someone who had been in the grave for almost fifty years. So blog number two, *This Day With F W Boreham* became a way of publishing this book, without any monetary cost. Remember, these blogs (I use Blogger) cost no money to establish or maintain.
*Blog #3: Resourcing Communicators*
When I was a young pastor I struggled to find relevant illustrations with which to illumine my sermons so over the years I worked hard to ferret them out. Even seasoned preachers like John Stott, admitted to being criticized for not having sufficient windows in his sermons to let the light in. In his major book on preaching he says that his sermons have been described as plum puddings without many plums! So my third blog, *Stories for Speakers and Writers*, is my gift to young preachers and writers (and in the process to hearers and readers) to help overcome stodgy communication. Many of the stories come out of my ongoing reading not just from my stockpile of thirty years of ministry.
Please note that in this blog I am aiming for ‘communicators’, not just religious preachers. Because of this, I use thin theological language if I use theological language at all. I am attempting to post stories that don’t always end with detailed applications. When I submitted a couple of stories to a Preacher’s Resource Site they were rejected along the lines that hearers would not be able to discern in the telling where the story would end and what the punch line would be. If that is the criteria for that Preacher’s Resource Site I think most of Christ’s stories would have been rejected for the same reason.
*Blog #4: Advertising and Selling*
When the first F W Boreham reprint was soon to come off the printing presses I established Blog #4, *New F W Boreham Books*. This blog is unashamedly to promote the books and point people to the distributors. Like many blogs they are better known as a ‘flog’. This blog only has a handful of postings so it does not take much to maintain. It is linked to other blogs of a Boreham type (which rank high in the Google stakes) so readers can easily find this minor site and publicity about new publications.
*Blog #5: Casting a Vision and Calling People to Commitment*
Blog writing is a sideline to my work as a writer, a conference speaker, lecturer and consultant in Asia. I have received more invitations to speak at Pastor’s Conferences and teach in seminaries in the last two years than I could ever accept. This fact and the burden of meeting people who have few resources has led to the firing of a dream, a new movement and another blog, *Theologians Without Borders*. Not a ‘flog’ but a megaphone to issue some Macedonian calls and begin matching people who have the gifts and time to serve as short-term volunteer with the opportunities and needs.
*Blog #6: Speaking into the Public Sphere*
Over the years I have been increasingly convinced that theology has concentrated too much on personal or family issues (salvation, sanctification, election) and matters to do with the church. Rarely does theology get beyond the garden gate. It seems to me that things that happen in our community, country and world need to set the theological agenda. Theologians need to join with people of other disciplines to address the issues and needs in our society and world.
I gave myself a year before opening my mouth to speak about issues that relate to the country where I know live, the United Arab Emirates. I have commenced Blog #6, *Experiencing the Emirates* on which I write random reflections on everyday life in the UAE and in particular, the city in which I live and the little known east coast region.
I am trying to think of the ordinary things that I do and see and seek to identify something more. Already this blog has become a way and an excuse for meeting local people about whom I can write a story. One of the stories with an environmental theme has been reprinted in the /Fujairah Observer/, a monthly magazine, which in turn is increasing readership and interest in my blog.
As I write letters to family and friends Down Under, I often think, ‘Why don’t I post these experiences for a wider readership?’ I still do have some unpublished thoughts but I am amazed at the comments posted and the letters I receive with questions and expressions of appreciation.
I am treading lightly at this stage. I live in a country where there is censorship of letters and web sites and one cannot be too critical of leadership as one blogger found who is behind bars somewhere else in this region. I have written critically of an oil spill in the waters near where I live and my writing evoked the ire of the environmental head, who quickly dismissed the suggestion that all the dead fish on the beaches had anything to do with oil spills. Interestingly, today in another national newspaper there are further reports by fishermen and residents of oil slicks, a couple of beaches along and an enquiry has now been established. Blog writing is so direct. It can be published instantly and not have to wait until the newspaper is delivered the next morning.
I think many pastors could do well to establish a blog upon which they might reflect on the issues that are facing their community.
*Blog #7: Publishing Your **Reading** and Viewing*
In my ‘Experiencing the Emirates’ blog I wrote an article, in which I yearned for a decent bookshop in the small (120,000 population) city where we live.
This posting reached the manager of the largest book chain in the UAE and although I haven’t persuaded him to open a local book shop he asked if I might write some reviews for their regular newsletter and web site. I have agreed to do this as I read lots of books and watch many movies anyway. Over the years I have cultivated the art of reading books with a pen in my hand. Such an exercise is nourishing personally and enriching to one’s ministry. It also relates directly to the ‘Stories for Speakers’ blog site.
So the deal negotiated is that each month I visit the store and walk out with a bag full of books that I want to read. All my reading is free just for supplying the book shop with a few lines on each item. I also write an extensive review and post this on Blog #7, *Reviewing Books and Movies*. This gives an opportunity to provide a critique to people who are looking for books and movies.
Blogs help us to think more widely about our audiences. Many sermons, addresses and letters that people write could well be tweaked and posted for the benefit of a wider readership.
Blogs need to be focused. Like the nozzle on the garden hose, blogs must be directed towards a specific readership target. They must not be a fine spray that floats out to cover everything lightly. Hence the need to create a number of purpose-built blogs (that’s a good title for Rick Warren—‘Purpose Driven Blogs’!), rather than turning one blog into a ragbag of all the things that come into your mind.
Blogs need to be Fun. One shouldn’t feel constrained to post an article every day but if it is too infrequent you will not build a readership.
*Posting Pictures on Blogs for Dummies*
I get some readers checking out my sites and saying, ‘They look very professional.” Most of these compliments I need to pass on to those who created the infrastructure or templates of the blogs, then the rest of the appearance is enhanced by the images that provide an illustration.
I am a learner not a computer or Internet freak. The site I have learned much from is *problogger* - one of the most popular web sites on the Internet. It happens to be the site of a pastor in Melbourne, Darren Rowse, and my claim to fame is that he was one of my students. Let me give some steps for dummies like myself:
The platform I use for most of my sites (I have other sites for mounting my photographs and there are others I have created just to experiment and see what they look like) is *Blogger*. It gives simple and clear information (and a tour) on creating a blog and now I can make one in about 8 minutes. They give you an opportunity to choose a template (design and colours) for your blog. Then you can establish a heading for your blog (e.g. ‘Reviewing Books and Movies’) with some explanatory information (e.g. ‘a web site for reviews of books and movies’), you can add page elements such as your Profile (information about you), Links (to your other sites, those of your organization or friends) and you can arrange your Archives, provide different ways people can get feeds or alerts every time you post an article. Then there are other ways you can dress your blog and shove on ads to make some pocket money.
I am assuming you have written up an article on a Word document (so you will keep your own copy of your blog articles) and you have thought of a natty title—titles are important for attracting people’s attention and one needs to think of key words that people will pop into the search engine so that they find your article.
Then what might be a good image? I have posted a blog article recently on the different gloss that the word ‘gaming’ gives instead of the word ‘gambling’. To find a picture I put the word ‘gambling’ into the Google search. Above the word gambling there are some Google Search options—‘Web’ (which is the default position and if you search with this you will find documents. To the right is the word ‘images’. This is what you click. There came up for my search all sorts of pictures to do with gambling—poker machines, decks of cards etc. (most of the gambling sites are blocked in the UAE. Not so many gaming sites are which proves the point of the article!) Locate the picture you want to use, click on it to make it bigger and then, holding your cursor over the picture it will usually bring up the sign meaning you can save it. I usually save it to my desktop and give it a label of my own like ‘gambling’ or ‘gambling table’. If that sign does not come up I will put my cursor over the picture and drag it to my desktop and maybe label it so I can identify which it is of the many photos on my desktop. For other recent postings on Bill Clinton or sporting champions I have Googled Bill Clinton’s name or Matthew Hayden (Aussie Cricketer in good form recently) in order to find an appropriate photo.
Then in Blogger you follow the instructions to ‘Create a New Post.’ Copy your text from your Word document and paste it into your blog. Write your heading in the title space. Use the toolbar at the top so you can put your cursor over words in your text to make them bold, underlined or in italics. Later you will learn the art of creating hypertext which highlights a line so people can click on it and be directed to a web site that will give further explanation or information.
On the Blogger tool bar there is a little blue image to the far right that looks like a blue photo, meaning you need to click it if you are going to add a photo. After you click on this you will see at the top the words ‘Add an image from your computer’ or over on the right ‘add an image from the web.’ If you have followed my steps the photo you have selected is saved onto the desktop of your computer so you will ‘add a computer from your computer’. Then click on the word ‘Browse’. You can browse through your picture files on your computer or on your desktop. Click on the photo that you have appropriately identified and then press ‘open’.
Then you will see ‘Choose a layout’. This asks you to determine whether you do not decide which position on your posting you want your photo so you will choose ‘None’. More often than not you will choose to put the photo on the ‘left’ or the right’ of your text. On one posting recently I selected ‘centre’ to make a feature out of it and all the text followed underneath the photo, not to one side. Another reason you might choose to lay your photo in the centre is if you want people to click on it for magnification. I put one photo (you can put more than one photo with one posting when you get really good at it and then drag them around to position them afterwards) on the Stories site, one of which was the beautiful pattern of a stained glass window and the other, so similar, was the design of some DNA. These photos really needed to be magnified and in my text I encouraged people to *‘click for magnification’*. For some reason, when a photo has text on the left or right in a blog, readers cannot click and magnify the photo.
After you have chosen your layout position you will see on the right that you can ‘choose image size’—‘small’, ‘medium’, ‘large’. I keep mine at ‘medium’ and have checked the box so this is the default size for all my photo postings. Remember, if the photo is too big or you have too many photos some readers who do not have broadband will not be able to view the pictures.
Then you click on ‘Upload image’. The blog will whir and say, ‘Loading image’. Then it will say (unless your computer has lost connection with Blogger, which does happen occasionally), ‘Your image has been added.’
After clicking ‘Done’ you can change your post. Often I find the text has slipped a line or two if the photo is at the top left or right. So put your cursor to the left of the first word and press your BACK SPACE so the text goes right up to the top line and is flush with the top of the photo.
At the bottom there is a space for inserting ‘Labels’ If you use them these will appear at the bottom of your blog posting. You do not have to use labels but these are tags for your indexing of posts, especially helpful when you are later searching through hundreds of your postings looking for one article. They are also tags used by search engines. In a recent posting on Bill Clinton and his use of poetry I put in as labels, ‘Bill Clinton, poetry, Macbeth, leadership (the commas separate the labels). These are ways to cross reference a story or a posting, realizing one article can have many themes and applications.
Then you can hit the ‘preview’ button and see what it would be like. You might spot a typo, in which case you can hit ‘hide preview’ and correct it. You might want to shorten the title or change the photo. In that latter case you hit the ‘hide preview’ button and place your cursor over the photo and press ‘delete’ on your keyboard. That photo will disappear from your blog. If you need time to look for another photo you will need to press ‘draft’ so you can move from that page and neither lose your text nor at this stage have your article posted publicly on the Internet. Then you go through the steps again looking for a picture, saving it to your desktop and when you want to attach it you can click on ‘edit post’.
If everything looks fine in your preview you can click ‘publish’. Then it will hopefully say afterwards, ‘Your blog post published successfully’ meaning it is there for the world to see. You can then press ‘View Blog’ and take another look. If you are happy then press the button to ‘Sign Out’. If you are still not happy you can hit the ‘Back’ button on your browser so you go back one page, click on the ‘edit post’ and change the picture.
*Try It Out*
It takes time to operate your blog but it soon becomes comfortable like driving your car. Even if you are still not sure whether blogging is for you, have a go at setting one up. Just because you start a blog there is no obligation to carry it on. So taste and see!